The South Carolina football team will look to extend its winning streak to three games and keep its chances of bowl eligibility alive on Saturday when the Kentucky Wildcats visit Columbia.
The Daily Gamecock spoke with Cole Parke, the sports editor for the Kentucky Kernel, to learn more about the Wildcats football team ahead of the pivotal matchup. The two teams are set to kick off under the lights of Williams-Brice Stadium at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.
The Daily Gamecock: What would you say is the mood around the Kentucky program right now?
Parke: “It's definitely pretty disappointing right now. I think a lot of people were hoping to put up a better fight than 49-21 against Alabama, and even that's not the full story because they went down 21-0 after like 10 minutes in that game.”
“I think right now people are very, very upset and very unhappy with the way things are going. Obviously, it doesn't help that the Cats lost to Tennessee and Missouri in that time, so they’re 6-4, and you never know — with how good Louisville is this year — they might be looking at a second consecutive 7-5 season. So the vibes are definitely not very good.”
What went wrong for the Wildcats in that game against Alabama last week?
"I want to say a lot of it was defensive issues. Kentucky’s defense really just couldn't seem to figure out anything Alabama had going for it."
“There was one play that struck out to me as really, really pivotal, and that was a 3rd and 18 by Alabama. Big tackle for loss in the backfield by the Cats, and really faced an opportunity to get Alabama off the field, and they allowed Alabama not only to convert it but go on to score on that drive, and you simply can't do that against good teams.”
“(It was a) really poor defensive effort for Kentucky all game long. That really plagued them because Kentucky's had a relatively inconsistent offense through a lot of the year. The offense seemed to be doing all right. The offense, at times, was moving down the field, even got those three touchdowns. But defense just wasn't there against Alabama.”
What does Kentucky need to do that they did not do in last season’s loss to South Carolina?
“Right now, it kind of seems like both teams are coming in with opposite momentum in a way. I know South Carolina is a pretty tough place to play, so that'll favor the Gamecocks. But Kentucky's also had a decent history of being able to pull off a tough win in South Carolina, usually in some pretty ugly fashion because I think it was a pretty low-scoring game last time they were there.”
“I think it just comes down to playing more consistently. I felt like early on, Kentucky's defense had some solid games, and the offense just wouldn't be there. And even within the offense, it felt like when the run game was really strong, the pass game wasn't there. So it feels like Kentucky just hasn't really been able to click everything at the same time.”
Whose name are you expecting to hear called a lot on Saturday?
“On the run game, (senior running back) Ray Davis is always an absolute beast.”
“(Fifth-year wide receiver) Tayvion Robinson. He's a veteran with some experience there. (He) came out of Virginia Tech, so I'd say watch out for him if he's going. But he's also a little inconsistent.
“On the defensive side of the ball, I’m a big fan of the defensive line. You have (sophomore defensive lineman) Deone Walker who plays up sometimes. You have (senior defensive lineman) Octavious Oxendine is really, really good.”
What is your score prediction?
“I remember before the year started, I was pretty confident that Kentucky would get the win in this game. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you want to look at it, I am less confident in that now.”
“You know, South Carolina has been kind of stacking some wins and really looking for that bowl-eligibility, and it would be a little bit poetic to have bowl-eligibility on the line against Clemson in the final game of the season.”
“21-17 South Carolina.”3rd